Health Bill 2004: Motion for Earlier Signature.

I move:

That pursuant to subsection 2° of section 2 of Article 25 of the Constitution, Seanad Éireann concurs with the Government in a request to the President to sign the Health Bill 2004, on a date which is earlier than the fifth day after the date on which the Bill shall have been presented to her.

I wish to say a few words on the Bill and thank the Minister of State and his officials, as is traditional. Is that in order?

Senator O'Meara is in order.

I thank the Minister of State for his sterling work on the Bill. The extensive time we wished to devote to its discussion has not been allocated. However, I commend the Minister of State on his commitment to the legislation. The more issues one raises with the Bill, the more evident is its scope. It creates a radical new departure and a new framework for the management of the health service and represents fundamental and sweeping reform.

In principle, none of us has a difficulty with that. However, we have rehearsed our concerns about some of the Bill's provisions. I emphasise one issue about which I am especially concerned. The Bill presents a recipe for major strife between the Minister and the board of the HSE.

Senator O'Meara is moving into an area not appropriate for discussion.

The Minister has the power of direction and the board will have to legislate. I wonder how this will work out in practice.

I congratulate the Minister of State and his officials on the manner in which they have brought the Bill through the House. I wish there had been more time to debate all aspects of the legislation. However, all Members wish for its successful implementation. It is incredibly important that the significant amount of money devoted to the health service should be spent properly for the benefit of patients. We are all patients of the health service at some time. The Bill is also extremely important for all those employed in the health service. I wish it well.

I thank the Minister of State for the great knowledge he has displayed of his brief in his work on this Bill. It was a pleasure for Senator Phelan and I, as Government spokespersons, to hear the Minister of State reply to the points made by Members on all sides of the House. I thank him and his officials.

I thank the Minister of State, his officials and all those involved in the preparation of the Bill. We have had difficulty with some aspects of it but, as Senator O'Meara observed, the principle of the Bill is quite sound. I thank the Leader for allowing a good deal of time to debate the legislation,——

It was not enough, however.

——especially in comparison to the other House. Perhaps if some Member of that House were as capable as the Leader, more time would have been allocated there.

Senator Browne should not discuss the other House.

Perhaps I should go back there.

We do not wish for that.

Perhaps Deputy Cassidy will do a straight swap with the Leader.

I thank Members for their kind comments and their recognition that this is important and fundamental legislation. I am encouraged by the tenor of the debate in this House. The criticisms tendered from the Opposition benches were offered in a constructive spirit.

The earlier signature motion is necessary because certain preliminary matters must be put in place to ensure the Act will commence on 1 January 2005. This is a new experiment which will have significant implications not only for the health service and my Department, but also for the Houses of the Oireachtas, which will be in a far more pivotal position in the assessment of the health service in the future. I thank Senators for their contributions and interest in this measure.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 1.20 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.